Suppose that you are tasked with managing a health care marketing division for a pharmaceutical drug. A junior member of your marketing team suggests that you increase the budget to invite health care providers to attend symposia in which they will be trained to be speakers. One goal of the marketing plan is to influence physicians to prescribe the drug. The team member has draft versions of brochures and DVD's espousing the benefits of the drug; these are to be distributed to physicians and patients as a way to boost sales. The team member also suggests that a bonus system be set in place for your sales representatives in their territories in order to increase the number of prescriptions that physicians make for the drug.
(A) What are some of the ethical issues associated with this marketing strategy?
Some of the ethical issues associated with this marketing strategy is that one goal of the marketing plan is to influence physicians to prescribe the drug. A lucrative bonus system encouraged sales representatives to increase sales of OxyContin in their territories, resulting in a large number of visits to physicians with high rates of opioid prescriptions, as well as a multifaceted information campaign aimed at them. In 2001, in addition to the average sales representative's annual salary of $55,000, annual bonuses averaged $71,500, with a range of $15,000 to nearly $240,000. Purdue paid $40 million in sales incentive bonuses to its sales representatives that year. From 1996 to 2000, Purdue increased its internal sales force from 318 sales representatives to 671, and its total physician call list from approximately 33,400 to 44,500 to approximately 70,500 to 94,000 physicians. Through the sales representatives, Purdue used a patient starter coupon program for OxyContin that provided patients with a free limited-time prescription for a 7- to 30-day supply. By 2001, when the program was ended, approximately 34,000 coupons had been redeemed nationally. Prospective, randomized, controlled trials lasting at least 4 weeks that evaluated the use of opioids for chronic, non-cancer-related pain showed statistically significant but small to modest improvement in pain relief, with no consistent improvement in physical functioning. A recent review of the use of opioids in chronic back pain concluded that opioids may be efficacious for short-term pain relief, but longer-term efficacy (>16 weeks) is unclear (Van Zee, A., 2009).
Therefore, after further reading and research that the drug representatives versions of brochures and DVD's espousing the benefits of the drug that are to be distributed to physicians to influence physicians as a way to boost sales can be unethical if severe harm or death can result in misrepresenting the drug. The expanding tort of negligent misrepresentation promotes knowing reliance upon unjustified authority and propagates an attitude that permits people to blame others for their own poorly researched or executed...